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A Night for Angels
A few minutes after reaching Edison International Field in Anaheim, California, in was obvious that the first anniversary of September 11th brought out the best in people. We were all excited to see the race between the Anaheim Angels and the Oakland A's draw one game closer, but on every painted face, tattooed body, and flag-bearing American was a reminder of why we are still here. I had assumed a few tears would slip out during this event, but instead I found a renewed sense of patriotism and plenty to smile about. The boisterous beer line was blessedly short and our seats in the Terrace section were just beyond the third base line.
I surveyed the crowd in their commemorative 9/11 MLB (Major League Baseball) t-shirts. They were all there: the fluorescent pink-clad mother who continuously rearranged her children, the out-of-town elderly couple who sported matching frocks covered in flags, the pudgy-faced innocents drinking cupfuls of soda, and the extended family of eight taking up one whole row to playfully pass their kids between them like a bucket brigade. Veterans, philanthropists, half-dressed high school kids, an oversized group of Chinese guys wearing Dodger caps, and the little lispy guy behind me sharing stats with a friend celebrating his birthday; They are the spunk of America and no one was going to keep them away from this game.
While the pre-game video captured the American spirit, the giant flag displayed by the members of the local fire, police, and EMT units represented a whole new outlook on life. In a rich baritone voice, Robbie Britt impressed even the restless children with his rendition of "America the Beautiful." Hats came off and hands went to hearts as the children from Woodsboro Elementary School in Anaheim recited The Pledge of Allegiance. The U.S Army Color Guard from Newport Beach, California presented the American colors and the National Anthem was sung by Kristen Romero, a Peace Officer from Fullerton, California. The cheering in the colosseum-like setting rose to a fevered pitch as Romero sang to the land of the free.
It wast just about the impending game. It was about us. But as we were feeling incredibly elated about the American public and their attributes, an announcement was made concerning the local firefighter who threw out the honorary first pitch. He, along with five other members of the Southern California Fire Department, traveled at his own expense to Ground Zero, and to those in need. It's a sobering thought to realize that because of sacrifices similar to his, many people survived to brave the road to recovery who wouldn't have otherwise. To that I say "Play Ball!"
Although the players professed to the media that it was a privilege to play on this day, surely the Angels were thinking of the pennant race and closing the gap atop the American League West. With no score until the top of the third, the Oakland A's ended the stalemate and scored four runs on four straight hits. The Angels designated hitter, Brad Fullmer, led off with a double in the bottom of the fourth, catching the A's and tying the game 4-4. Oakland scored one run at the top of the fifth with no further scoring until the bottom of the seventh.
At 9:10 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, the announcer called for attention and something unbelievable happened. A moment of silence was held to honor all the victims of September 11th, and for 60 seconds 34,302 people fell silent. I glanced up from my prayer and never in my life had a moment occurred where I felt so in tune with so many people. The evening's theme of "We Will Never Forget" repeated in my head as the silence broke with chants of "U.S.A" from the crowd. Top that off with Officer Romero's rendition of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch and you have a complete evening of reflection, pride, and a renewed sense of vigor to do something wonderful for someone else.
Maybe it was this feeling that caused the Angels to bust out in the bottom of the seventh, or maybe it was that disturbing rally monkey. Whatever it was, Scott Spiezio and Garret Anderson scored on Shawn Woooooooooootes double and managed to hold on until the end. On this night, with perfect 70º weather, the home team won the game. But it wasn't just about baseball. It was about this nation gaining something for ourselves. We secured the ability to survive a crisis and acquired a much needed reminder of what it means to be truly free.
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